Card Companies Taking the Ax to Consumers With Good Credit
After some 10 million consumers with poor credit saw their credit lines reduced earlier last year, responsible consumers with good credit are now seeing the same credit card limit reductions as credit card issuers move to insulate themselves from defaults, reports USA Today (â€śLenders Slash Credit for Responsible Borrowers,â€ť April 2, 2009).
Approximately 22 million cardholders â€” all of them consumers who have kept up on their credit card payments, have paid their bills on time, and have maintained their credit â€” have had their accounts closed or credit limits cut, according to a recent report by Fair Isaac, the creator of the FICO credit score.
Typically, lenders have targeted those with poor credit but as the economy has continued to unravel, lenders have changed their definition of risk, says Josh Lauer, a professor at the University of New Hampshire who is writing a book on credit reporting.
Consumers who have high credit scores tend to use their credit cards less and carry low balances, says Fair Isaacâ€™s Careen Foster, which may be why theyâ€™re now being targeted by lenders.
And consumers who pay their bills on time arenâ€™t a very profitable demographic for lenders since these consumers tend to pay few credit card fees, adds John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education for Credit.com. Even though these cardholders are less likely to default, lenders must still set aside reserves in case consumers stop making payments on their loans.
When credit card companies close a consumerâ€™s accounts or reduce a consumerâ€™s credit limit, it can increase the proportion of available credit a consumer is using and bring down his or her credit score, making it harder to qualify for any type of loan in the future, especially for a consumer who already has bad credit.
The good news for those who have been responsible with their credit is that, according to the Fair Isaac report, card companiesâ€™ recent credit line reductions have had very little impact on these consumersâ€™ credit scores, perhaps because these consumers have had their credit limits cut by only 5 percent.
Bank analyst Meredith Whitney estimates that by 2010 banks will have slashed another $2.7 trillion of available credit on consumer cards. With lenders continuing to tighten their credit standards, Ulzheimer says cardholders, even those with good credit, canâ€™t afford to be complacent about their credit scores.
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